When her sports enthusiast husband wanted to moonlight by opening a business selling baseball cards and memorabilia, Nancy Morin was skeptical.

"At the beginning, I had my doubts," says Morin. "I was thebiggest skeptic of them all. But now, things have worked out well."

Three years later, things have worked out so well that the Morinsopened a second location yesterday at Perry Hall Crossing in Baltimore County.

The couple's first store, The Batter's Box, is located at Festival at Bel Air mall on Route 24, outside Bel Air.

"We've both had a lot of fun with this," says Nancy, who says she works a "flexible" schedule at the store.

"We work and travel together. It's been good for the family. What I like is that we probably spend more time together because of the business."

Roland Morin says he didn't go into the baseball card trading and selling business just to havefun.

He saw the hobby growing among area residents and was convinced that a business that catered to that interest could prove a lucrative investment.

"I started the store as a business vehicle," the 37-year-old Baltimore County native says. "I started collecting cardsagain, knowing I would be going into business."

Roland says he collected baseball cards as a child, but gave up the hobby in his teen years. He says he wishes he had known the value of collecting cards then. In his stores, he sells cards ranging from a few cents to $600.

What fetches $600? Well, a single Pete Rose rookie card, for one, says Roland.

A Johnny Bench rookie card sells for $350. Cal Ripkenrookie cards garner about $70 each.

Roland estimates he has millions of cards in stock.

He buys new cards directly from card manufacturers. Most other cards he buys over the counter from customers. Some other notable cards in stock are Brooks Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Nolan Ryan and Jose Canseco.

"We do a lot of trading," he says.

Returning to the hobby as a business interest, though, has also proved fun, said Roland.

He gave up his construction job of 18 years toopen the second store and operate the business full time.

"I'm having fun with this hobby," he says. "You don't have fun when you go put a new roof on a house. Retail is a lot of fun."

He's guarded about how much he has invested in either of his stores. "We've spent a lot," he says.

Despite a downturn in the economy, business at the Bel Air store has grown about 50 percent during the past year, Rolandsays. Besides selling sports cards, the store also carries licensed sports team products and collector supplies, such as boxes and plastic sleeves. The stores employ six part-time employees.

Although collecting sports cards is a luxury, Morin says people still want to have fun and that's part of what fuels his business.

"People like to have fun," he says. "Anything sports-related has done well the past year. Sports make people feel good."

Nancy, 36, says the store has attracted all kinds of customers.

"Our customers are everybody from kids to men in three-piece business suits," she says. "It's a hobbyeveryone can get involved in."

The Street residents have involvedtheir 8-year-old daughter, Cassandra, in the hobby and business, too. She collects cards and has them strewn "all over the house," Rolandsays.

At 1,600 square feet, the Perry Hall store will be slightlylarger than the 1,200 square-foot Bel Air location.

In addition, the new location will sell some baseball sports equipment such as bats, gloves, and licensed uniforms. It will also stock supplies for other sports, such as hockey and football.

"It's going to be a first-class retail store," Roland says. "It's pretty awesome. We wanted one-stop shopping. People don't want to run in and out of several stores."

The store also will sell Batter's Box shirts and hats.

The Morins also are reviewing further expansion plans. Roland says he would like to open outlets in Timonium, Owings Mills and Columbia.

"We're going to build the largest chain of stores," he predicts. "There are no sports card chain stores in the state. We want a first-class operation all the way."

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